Wake Forest University

East Asian Languages and Literatures, Chinese,

Patrick Edwin Moran




Revised as of 20030606: Instances of music played in different tunings to help you to understand one of the factors that makes a piece of Chinese music sound different.


Musical Examples






The musical examples: "The Wearing of the Green" is a traditional song that is in the public domain. A "mutant" version is given here to enable users to test whether the other midi files will actually demonstrate the difference in tunings. If it sounds normal to you, then your system is not yet able to interpret midi "sysex" directions correctly, and the other midi files will not show any contrasts.

"All Through the Night" is another traditional song, also in the public domain. There are two versions, one in the typical Western tuning, and one in the Chinese tuning. (See my note at the bottom of this web page about the source of these two pieces of music.)

"Yang Ming Chun Xiao" is a piece of Chinese music that is available on the WWW. I have been unable to find any indication of authorship or copyright, either on websites or within the midi text itself. I therefore presume that the music is in the public domain. I anyone knows who the author is, please let me know.

"Winter Night" is my own composition, the melody part of which was made in 1962. Students from Japan told me, at that time, that it sounded like their kind of music, so I have included it here as something that is perhaps "bu4 dong1 bu4 xi1" (neither Eastern nor Western).




The fastest and best -- but only if you have the special midi software, and, in this version, only if your browser is set up to use that midi software. Even if you have the software, you may need to download the file and play it from your hard drive. To try it, download and install:
Edirol Virtual Sound Canvas (Go to http://www.edirol.com/products/info/vscmp1.html and download an evaluation copy.)


  • Hear a bit of The Wearing of the Green to test whether you are really set up to hear the differences in tuning. If this doesn't sound really strange then you must not have the right set-up for micro-tuning midi music yet. You should try saving the midi file and playing it outside your browser so that you are not limited by the plug-in software used with your browser.

    Listen to an MP3 version of what you should hear if your midi player will handle micro-tuning.




    If your computer configuration fails the "twisted Green" test above, do not bother with the following set of midi files, as both pairs of any given set will sound exactly the same.

  • Hear the traditional Welch song All Through the Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning, i.e., the tuning used by almost all professional musicians in the United States, the way your teacher's piano was tuned at your primary school, etc. (Midi version)

  • Hear All Through the Night as played in the 12 Lyu tuning. (Midi version)

  • Hear Yang Ming Chun Xiao as played in the Equal Tempered (Western) tuning. (Midi version)

  • Hear Yang Ming Chun Xiao as played in the 12 Lyu tuning. (Midi version)

  • Hear Winter Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning. (Midi version)

  • Hear Winter Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning. (Midi version)




    Listen by means of Streaming Audio
    Listen to the following items as streaming audio. If you don't already have one, download and install your freeware player: http://www.real.com/realone/mac/index.html?src=052903realhome_1_2 (Unless you have a high-speed connection, you will likely experience distortions and stuttering using this method.)


    Streaming Audio:

    hear All Through the Night in Equal Tempered tuning (for streaming play).
    hear All Through the Night in 12 Lyu tuning (for streaming play).
    hear Yang Ming Chun Xiao in 12 Lyu tuning (for streaming play).
    hear Winter Night in Equal Tempered tuning (for streaming play).
    hear Winter Night in 12 Lyu tuning (for streaming play).




    Macintosh Systems:
    Download the following pieces of music to your hard drive in Real Audio format so that you can access them locally via the freeware Real Audio player:

    Before you start with the comparisons that involve fairly subtle differences between the Western system (the Equal Tempered tuning) and the Chinese 12 Lyu tuning system, it may be helpful to practice hearing the differences among several tunings that contrast more strongly. I have used a short passage from Tart Ara Mon Cueur by Jean Molinet (1435-1507), and have played it in (1) Equal Tempered tuning, (2) a tuning favored by La Mont Young, (3) the just intonation that was originated by Ptolemy and refined by Mersenne, (4) a tuning associated with Tibetan music, (5) a tuning invented by Pietro Aaron that dates back to 1523, (6) a jazz tuning that involves the seventh harmonic and the eleventh harmonic, (7) Mersenne's Improved Meantone, number one, tuning, (8) and then it is played once more in the Equal Tempered tuning. Click {{here}} to download this file to save to your own hard drive for later play. (The entire piece of music is available in midi form at: http://icking-music-archive.sunsite.dk/scores/Vocal.html.)

  • Download the traditional Welch song All Through the Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning, i.e., the tuning used by almost all professional musicians in the United States, the way your teacher's piano was tuned at your primary school, etc. (Download ".rm" file.)

  • Download All Through the Night as played in the 12 Lyu tuning. (Download ".rm" file.)

  • Download Yang Ming Chun Xiao as played in the Equal Tempered (Western) tuning. (Download ".rm" file.)

  • Download Yang Ming Chun Xiao as played in the 12 Lyu tuning. (Download ".rm" file.)

  • Download Winter Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning. (Download ".rm" file.)

  • Download Winter Night as played in the the 12 Lyu tuning. (Download ".rm" file.)




    MP3 via your browser:

  • Hear the traditional Welch song All Through the Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning, i.e., the tuning used by almost all professional musicians in the United States, the way your teacher's piano was tuned at your primary school, etc. (Play MP3 file.)

  • Hear All Through the Night as played in the 12 Lyu tuning. (Play MP3 file.)

  • Hear Yang Ming Chun Xiao as played in the Equal Tempered (Western) tuning. (Play MP3 file.)

  • Hear Yang Ming Chun Xiao as played in the 12 Lyu tuning. (Play MP3 file.)

  • Hear Winter Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning. (Play MP3 file.)

  • Hear Winter Night as played in the 12 Lyu tuning. (Play MP3 file.)







    ".Wav" files to download to your hard drive and play:

  • Hear the traditional Welch song All Through the Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning, i.e., the tuning used by almost all professional musicians in the United States, the way your teacher's piano was tuned at your primary school, etc.
    (7,054K bytes, about 45 minutes via telephone modem)

  • Hear All Through the Night as played in the 12 Lyu tuning.
    (7,054K bytes, about 45 minutes via telephone modem)

  • Hear Yang Ming Chun Xiao as played in the Equal Tempered (Western) tuning.
    (49,666K bytes, about 5 hours via telephone modem)

  • Hear Yang Ming Chun Xiao as played in the 12 Lyu tuning.
    (49,666K bytes, about 5 hours via telephone modem)

  • Hear Winter Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning.
    (4,958K bytes, about 30 minutes via telephone modem)

  • Hear Winter Night as played in the Equal Tempered tuning.
    (4,958K bytes, about 30 minutes via telephone modem)




    Both The Wearing of the Green and All Through the Night are traditional songs that were included in The Book of A Thousand Songs, edited by Albert E. Wier, published by Carl Fischer, Inc. N.Y., and orinally copyrighted in 1918 by Carl Fischer, Inc. The music for them, and midi versions of them, were obtained from http://www.web-helper.net/PDMusic. The attribution is not entirely clear, but putting a couple of clues together I conclude that the midi sequencing of All Through the Night (and possibly of The Wearing of the Green) was done by Mary Vikk.




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